Bob Bailey

A myblog.arts site

Jon Nixon’s Interpretive Pedagogies


Nixon puts forward important valued approaches in all aspects of teaching from the values of empowerment, of transformation, and an shared understanding of knowledge. Since tuition fees were introduced for all students Nixon’s valued approaches should be more valued and shared across the globe.

‘…talk to people rather than fight them; to understand them rather than dismiss or annihilate them as mutants; to enhance one’s own tradition by drawing freely on experience from other pools, rather than shutting it off from the traffic of ideas.’ Bauman, Z. (1987) Legislators and Interpreters. Polity Press

We debated in class if the role of Universities can also consist of career development (maybe a contradicting point of view to Nixon’s). If the knowledge we teach students and the many experiences we have as practising artists are ways of thinking of their subject then the students will benefit from university education using these ‘ways of thinking’ to help them find meaningful and creative work in the future.


1: Are all views worthy of our efforts to understand them?

Listen to others before making a decision.

Is there a tipping point so everything becomes flat and diluted?

All views are valid. Views that we don’t agree with are especially interesting as it ensures that we can engage in fair, diplomatic and objective discussions. The ability to articulate our own views and the ability to understand, unpick and challenge these and the views of others is what education is good for. However not all views can withstand all effort and time.

I think that these skills help us to communicate more successfully.  They allow us to challenge views and decisions made by colleagues, Students and Authorities that we feel are oppressive and harmful to us or others.

2: To what extent should traditions be protected (from other/new ideas)?

One is always at the expense of another (for example: classic versus modern minimal). New ideas, new technological advancements can be engaged with whilst also protecting traditions that we feel are important. Picasso couldn’t move to cubism if he didn’t know how to life-draw. Perhaps there might be a fear that the traditions might become muddied or infected with newer models / ideas that chip away at the pure traditions – I think they should be able to co-exist – giving the experiencer a rounder view of what has been achieved to what can be achieved in the future.

3. Is a technical or ‘useful’ education a second-rate education?

With the Government stating that ‘soft subjects’ should not take precedence over Maths and Science subjects, even going as far to say that ‘soft subjects’ should only be taught outside of the school gates. Rufus Noriis, commenting in the Guardian in January 2018 stated:

“Since 2010 there has been a 28% drop in the number of children taking creative GCSEs, with a corresponding drop in the number of specialist arts teachers being trained. Hardly surprising when the Ebacc, a government school performance measure focusing on a core set of academic subjects studied for GCSE, does not include a single creative discipline. Add the funding squeeze into the mix, and the result is that the practice and study of drama, design, music and art are rapidly disappearing from the curriculum. The pipeline of talent into the industry is being cut off by the government’s misguided sidelining of creativity in education.”

Creative subjects are taught in private educational establishments; why is there such a perverse difference in opinion?  The result is that another myth, deeply embedded in our British psyche, is being reinforced: that culture and creativity belong naturally to the elite, that they are not for everyone.

And this problem affects us all, because the whole economy needs creative skills. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 creativity will be in the top three most important skills for future jobs, alongside complex problem solving and critical thinking. Which are skills innate to and honed by a creative education.

A contra argument could be levelled that a technical education can be of great value but it should be a choice and it shouldn’t necessarily be at the expense of one that is also academic. What is a useful education? Useful for what and for whom? Is there an argument to say that a technical education is a useful one for the benefit of others; hence the need for skills and technical knowledge to pick up speed.

4. How can the technological and the cultural be merged? I.e. is it possible to teach for liberation and transformation, AND to prepare students for socially useful occupations?

It is not easy to think of a reason how it can. It depends on the agenda that’s driving the type of education and what reason the students are there for in the first place; it may be considered a finishing school “I don’t want to make a decision about my career just yet”, “It’s a filler till I get married”, “I’m not good at anything academic”; so the socially useful occupations would be filled by socially aware students (even before they venture into HE).  Most things in society are seen in terms of profit, The NSS might also reveal this is a fear of graduating students that they need to earn a living wage. This position determines the subjects that are valued and, as a result; the kind of courses that universities offer (the success of CSM Fashion MA is held as a milestone; I think it is a poison chalice. The course is so popular that the course has the rare choice of whom it offers a place to. It is also the wealthiest course in the entire UAL catalogue. Is this course subsidising others at UAL: no. CSM is in the black, CCW, LCC, LCF are in the red. Will the MA course prepare students for socially useful occupations? No; it’s dog-eat-dog.

This does seem to be the direction that HE seems to be following – Nixon ends the chapter by describing how the ‘technical revolution’ of Snow and the ‘cultural turn’ of Leavis have merged due to to the ‘massification of higher education’. Universities needs to aim for the student populace to mirror London’s multiculturalism which would allow for both the public good and the private good in education.

5.How do these ideas connect with the theory you have been encountering on your elective unit (if you are doing one)?

They connect very strongly to issues of diversity and inclusivity. Listening and sharing knowledge, learning to communicate better and understand each other is essential if we are going to value and learn from each-others difference. Widening participation is essential if we, as an educator and facilitator, want to change the white face of middle class privileges. Less affluent children have many obstacles in their way, they may apply for sponsorship but they will be faced with white faces, white history, white traditions – Technical and Creative educations are, arguably, a way to channel working class students away from peer pressured low level jobs or Academia and into industry.

“the financial infrastructure that supports scientific enquiry is now almost entirely focused on an outcome, impact and applicability as the essential foreground of enquiry and precondition of funding.” (Nixon, J. (2012) p22)

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